Kristian Morgan on preparing for his Appalachian Trail FKT

Kristian Morgan on preparing for his Appalachian Trail FKT

A Q&A with Kristian Morgan

On September 16, 2023, professional ultra runner and coach Kristian Morgan successfully set a new Appalachian Trail Southbound FKT (fastest known time) in a time of 45 days, 4 hours, and 27 minutes. He previously held the second-fastest known time. Congratulations Kristian! 

We conducted two interviews with Kristian; one in May 2023, before his attempt, and one in February 2024, after he set the record.

In May, we chatted with Kristian about how he prepared for his attempt, how he got into ultra running, and his advice for those looking to follow in his footsteps. In February, he recapped the event and shared his future plans and goals. Check both interviews out below.

May 2023, before Kristian's FKT attempt

What inspired you to attempt running the Appalachian Trail record?

I actually heard about the Appalachian Trail when Scott Jurek set the record in 2015. Then, in 2018, I ran as a mule for Karel Sabbe (current record holder) as he broke Scott Jurek's record. During this time I experienced a multi week adventure. As I ran with Karel, I fantasized that one day I would go for the record myself. 

How and when did you get into ultra running?

I was boxing in the 90’s; battling opponents in the ring. In the year 2000, I ran my first marathon and unlocked something inside of me. Then in 2009, I discovered Ultra Marathons. In my first Ultra, I noticed how quirky everybody was. They looked and talked differently from regular marathoners. There was something about these guys I liked. After running that first ultra, I knew I had found something special. 

How are you preparing yourself for this attempt, both physically and mentally?

I coach myself using a variety of methods. Long days in the mountains are important and I also complete a strength routine twice weekly. I enjoy running fast too, so I do weekly speed sessions on the track. My mental training comes as a by product of the physical efforts: each time I complete another training week my self-belief grows. But nothing can compare with experience. I take confidence from the past five years; in this time I have played a part in setting the current record and now hold the second fastest time on the trail. 

Can you talk a bit about the logistics of planning this kind of attempt and how you ensure you have the right supplies when you need them?

The Fastest Known time I’m trying to set is the supported South Bound (SoBo). I will have a crew meeting me at road crossings along the trail. It’s their job to resupply me with food and things I need to move forwards. Each day, I need to consume up to 10,000 calories to maintain my energy- this is where the Backpackers Pantry meals will help me. It’s not only about running/ hiking the trail, but also looking after my body to ensure I can get up each day and cover over 50 miles of trail.

What are you going to do differently this time around/ what were some takeaways or things you learned from your last attempt? 

First of all, I’ll be heading SoBo, last year was a NoBo attempt. This way I have two goals to shoot for… the overall fastest time and the SoBo record held by Karl “Speedgoat” Melter. I learned a lot on the trail last year. Many philosophical lessons, for example… “failure is the road to success.”

You're raising money for cancer research on this attempt- can you talk about what inspired this?

I have changed my cause from Cancer to an NGO project: “The Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness Appalachian Trail Project.” Originally, I opted to raise money for cancer research as my father has an incurable form of several cancers. But I realize that cancer charities have a lot of funding already. So I decided that The Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness Appalachian Trail Project is more relevant to my challenge and also in much need of help. A young member of the Penobscot Indian Nation, Nyle Sockbeson, is currently on the AT. He's hiking northbound, and his hike is dedicated to his late brother Douglas. Nyle is on this journey to help draw awareness to the benefits of outdoor recreation to everyone, and especially to his tribal peers in Maine and around the country. The Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness is raising money with the help of Nyle to build a lending library of gear for outdoor activities. As you no doubt know, multi-day experiences in the woods and mountains or on rivers, lakes, and the ocean require all sorts of gear. Acquiring that gear is a financial hurdle that many cannot get over. Nyle is hoping to make it a little bit easier for others to follow in his footsteps. To support this please go to

Do you have any advice for people who want to embark on similar expeditions?

Start off with smaller challenges to your big goal and gain experience. Do not be put off by people who doubt you and surround yourself with people who believe in you. Know your reasons and define your purpose; this will ensure you stay motivated.

Do you have any other record setting goals you're willing to share?

I set the record in 2020 for running/hiking Britain’s longest trail, the 630 mile SouthWest Coast Path. This was an official FKT. Last year someone broke my record, so it goes to show records are made to be broken.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

Without question, being the 2nd fastest in the world to complete the Appalachian trail is my greatest endurance achievement so far, but I hope to improve on that this year.

What part of this attempt are you most excited for? Most nervous about?

Getting to the start on top of Mt Katahdin; it's been such a rocky road with trying to raise the funds needed to make this happen. I have to ensure I pay for my crew’s expenses, the fuel for the 2 x cars, flights, food for everyone, equipment, hotels, and much more. So to stand at the top of Mt Katahdin, press start on my watch, and start this adventure is going to be super cool. I am most nervous about failing to set a new record. It's been a five year journey so far, investing all my time, resources, and finances into this record attempt. I got close last year but ultimately did not reach my goal. I will do my best to ensure success this year.


February 2024, after setting the Appalachian Trail FKT

Since setting the southbound fastest known time on the Appalachian trail last year, I have been preparing for a 2024 attempt starting May 25th. 
I knew I would return before I even reached the southern terminus at Springer Mountain in Georgia. You see, each time I complete the Appalachian trail, I learn from mistakes and make notes on how to improve. Here are a few areas I've been thinking over and will do differently this year:
  • First of all, I'm starting where I finished last year. Yes, that means this year's attempt will be Northbound. I have a few reasons why I've made this decision. Last year, when I was going south, I let priorities slip and found myself actually taking the path of least resistance, which for me was the southbound record. At the time, this was held by Karl Meltzer (SpeedGoat). I lost my focus and became content with the SoBo record. Okay, so I got the south record- and yes, that's amazing. However, it's not what I set out to achieve. 
  • Also, I had decided with the crew (Iceman, Gun Section) that we would start at 4:30am instead of 4am. This meant I finished 30 mins later each day and some nights needed a headlamp. We will go back to our original start time of 4am to ensure finishing as early as possible each day whilst still reaching our daily distance goal. 
  • I mentioned Iceman and Gun Section were my crew last year. They are both around 70 years old. This year, I will be bringing on a third crewmember who is in his early 20s and can do things that neither Iceman nor Gun Section can do. Having the extra crewmember to run with me on some stretches or hiking to set up camp for the night will be of major advantage. 
  • In previous attempts, I've had perfect weather. 2023 was a real test for us: bad weather resulted in having to delay our start date by six weeks. This did not leave me in the best state of mind or physical preparation to start. But I started anyway, because it was our only opportunity. This year, regardless of the bad weather, I will start on our set date. Also, I now have the experience of super bad weather and know how to cope. I also know that my feet can withstand being wet for three days in a row and I do not get trench foot, as long as I get at least six hours in the evening to dry them out. This is a major advantage. 
  • Finishing last year at Spring Mountain was an anti-climax. That's why the majority of thru hikers go North: because finishing at the iconic Mount Katahdin, with the stunning panoramic views (if you have good weather), is definitely a huge motivating factor. Also, heading north is where my heart has always been. 
There are many other areas I seek to improve. To set the world record on the Appalachian Trail takes something extra special- that's why not just anybody can do it. And the current record holder, Karel Sabbe, is a special individual. He blew apart the Pacific Crest Trail record last year and became the 17th person ever to finish the Barkley Marathons. To beat his record is something I believe I have the skill, experience, and motivation to do, which is why I'm training super hard right now. 
I'm currently in Thailand, where each day the temperature creeps up to 100°F and the humidity is about 85%. I do long runs exposed in the sun, keeping myself cool with a hat and making sure to hydrate and take in calories. Currently, my longest training run has been actually a 100 K race, which I did a few weeks ago and finished in fourth position. I will continue to train and prepare for the Appalachian Trail here on the island of Kho Phagnan for the next two months, and then I'll go up north, where the mountains are taller and steeper. 
I'll finalize my training by coming to New Hampshire and meeting my friend Veronica Leeds. I'll acquaint myself with the White mountains, where some consider the Appalachian trail to be at its most difficult. Then, I'll go and visit Ice Man at his home in Pennsylvania and spend time with him and Barb, his wife. Finally, we will drive down to Springer mountain to begin what will be my last ever attempt at setting a world record on the Appalachian Trail. 
It's not that I'm getting tired or don't want to do this again next year. It's just that asking people for their time, especially when they are in their seventies, to crew and forfeit their summer is something I no longer want to do. I'm going to give it my best shot this year. I have a lot of experience on the Appalachian Trail, including helping set the record in 2018 by running one third of the Appalachian Trail with Karel Sabbe, mueling for him, and even carrying his drinks, food, and even tracking device. I also have my failed attempt in 2019 and 21, where I did not complete the AT, but spent over 500 miles hiking with the through hikers and learning the community from the inside. 
With help from Damian Hall, I set the world record on Britain's longest national trail and demolished Britain's best trail running record. In 2022, I notched the second fastest northbound Appalachian Trail time. In 2023, I took the southbound FKT to complete my legacy. I will return this year and attempt to be the only person in history to hold the record in both directions. Wish me luck. 


You can learn more about Kristian and on his website